Reign, Season 2: Episode 4 – “The Lamb and the Slaughter”
Written by Laurie McCarthy & Adele Lim
Directed by Sudz Sutherland
Airs Thursday nights at 9 on The CW
It was this time a couple weeks ago when it didn’t look like Reign was very interested in following through on some of the drastic effects that its plague epidemic introduced to both the castle grounds and the world. But rather than shirking the long-term trauma of it all, “The Lamb and the Slaughter” confidently shows what a thing like the plague does to the characters in this series.
For one, the promises of reckoning and lingering spirits are beginning to spill over into the action at an almost startling level. Reign hasn’t shied away from these elements before, but even former queen Catherine has a disturbing encounter with the ghosts of two little girls an episode after we see proof that the deceased king Henry hasn’t fully departed from the world. On the one hand, I admired what seemed like Reign‘s commitment to redefining itself with Francis and Mary as new rulers with non-traditional ideologies, but Alan van Sprang was such a wonderful part of the first season that even just getting his character through the possession of other characters is worth the back-peddling.
That idea, though, of Mary and Francis being made of different stuff than their predecessors is what pulls the episode away from the mundane. Characters like Catherine and Narcisse are constant reminders that the old regime is still around and capable of moving pieces, but when those two have a conversation between themselves while the rest of the castle is celebrating the christening of Lola’s child, it feels very much like old dogs being left out in the cold. Again, Craig Parker is knocking it out of the park in this role, and Reign is in love with Megan Follows’ Catherine, so I can’t imagine either is going to be anything close to passive as the season continues. But a large part of the plot is based around how Mary and Francis are making decisions from an almost naive perspective. It may or may not work out in the long run, but it certainly makes both of those characters and Reign more interesting.
And, actually, amid the extensive soapiness of this episode (seriously, the cheese is turned up to maximum volume in both the scoring and melodramatic camera work), the relationship between Francis and Mary shines in the center of the narrative thrust. Mary’s miscarriage could have been grossly mishandled if it had been used just as a device, but the way that it brings out the admirable qualities in both her and Francis is effective and surprising. Mary, ever the altruist and selfless friend and wife, holds off telling Francis about what’s going on while everyone is in a good mood. That probably would have been enough of a solid character moment to justify the use of a predictable plot. But then it’s followed by Francis’ overtures to make Mary feel slightly less terrible (it’s always appreciated when characters don’t presume they can fix things like this). The story about how both of them used to wait for fireflies as children walks that line between kind of dumb and kind of sweet, and in this case, I think it lands sharply on the sweet side of things once we see the lanterns go up in the air. Here is a show that isn’t at all afraid to wear its sleeve on its heart, which of course, because this is The CW. However, it is all too easy for other shows to drop the ball with these moments by being precious. Reign has been anything but that in its short run so far, and season two continues to find new ways of making most of these characters more interesting.
Gossip from the Halls:
– Greer is one of those characters who continues to surprise. The episode sets her up for going back with Leith after their…charged…dance, but her decision to stick with Castleroy is…interesting? I’m just not sure how honest she’s being with herself.
– The Estelle plot kind of goes nowhere fast. It does, however, give Narcisse the chance to pitch himself to Lola as a misunderstood guy. Trouble on the horizon.
– Giant butter sculptures. Catherine knows no bounds when it comes to parties.